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Showing posts from September, 2012

The Betamax Fallacy: Putting Nuclear Energy in a Green Straitjacket

Energy is energy – and producing electricity doesn’t have an ideological bias. But how electricity gets produced is another matter. It involves interactions between government, industry and citizens, which quickly gives it an ideological cast.

In England, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas, the first Green Party member of parliament offer what represents energy manna to them in a recent Guardian article:
If there weren't already a solution at hand, we'd have to be frantically hunting around for one. But the fact is that there is - renewables, combined with a serious drive for energy conservation, which would also have the added benefits of making our homes more comfortable and our air more breathable. They put this at the end of the article, the capper on a loosely reasoned piece on the downsides of nuclear energy, which they call  the Betamax of the energy world. I wouldn’t even call Betamax the Betamax of the videotape world – it was a technologically su…

Contest: Help NEI Name Its New Conference Rooms! Ends Oct. 3

We just announced a new friendly Facebook contest to help NEI name its new conference rooms. For details on the contest and to enter, you must visit NEI’s Facebook page. Don’t forget to ‘like’ our page while you’re there!

Rock the Vote on Nuclear Energy

The Wall Street Journal has up a single item poll. The single item?Should the world increase its reliance on nuclear energy?Go on over to the site and cast your vote. As of Wednesday morning, the totals were 80 percent yes and 19 percent no. That’s 20 points to make up! (Not that we’re suggesting how you should vote – but then again, this isn’t Beyond Nuclear dot com either. Just saying.)

Data Centers: Not Exactly About Nuclear Energy But All About Energy

The New York Times takes a look at large data centers, the warehouses of computers that power large web sites like Amazon and Facebook and Google (and plenty of others). We’ve noted these in the past because many of them have set up in places like Illinois, Virginia and North Carolina – that is, states well covered by nuclear energy – but many with a strong desire to use renewable energy – to the extent that some of them want to install their own wind farms or solar arrays.

We called this silly then but now, the Times' year-long investigation has revealed a rather more alarming angle, because the data centers are environmental sump holes:
At least a dozen major data centers have been cited for violations of air quality regulations in Virginia and Illinois alone, according to state records. Amazon was cited with more than 24 violations over a three-year period in Northern Virginia, including running some of its generators without a basic environmental permit. And wasteful consume…

Japan to Exit Nuclear Energy – Maybe – Maybe Not

This is from the New York Times:In an abrupt turnabout, the Japanese government on Wednesday stopped short of formally adopting the goal it announced just last week — to phase out nuclear power by 2040 — after the plan drew intense opposition from business groups and communities whose economies depend on local nuclear power plants. Color me – surprised? The decision made last week had the political benefit of not impacting most of the officials who supported it and seemed to split the difference between business interests and people wanting to move away from nuclear energy. No one had to think very hard about it because nothing drastic was going to happen for quite awhile.It turns out a lot of people gave it some thought.But business groups criticized any move away from nuclear power as impractical and a death knell for Japanese manufacturers, which have already lost much of their competitive edge to cheaper rivals elsewhere in Asia. And communities across Japan that host nuclear faci…

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 10-14, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices were mostly down last week. Prices at ERCOT-Houston, PJM West, and the Northeast hubs fell substantially, dropping $27, $20, and $11/MWh, respectively. Prices at Palo Verde and the Southwest hubs rose marginally, in the face of a heat wave. “Largely defying a typical pre-weekend tick higher, power prices for Sept. 17 delivery moved in both directions across the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 14, but with the bias mostly lower as traders focused on softer gas prices and mild fall weather rather than mounting outages or the return of business-related demand early in the next week. … The cost of gas could have heightened influence at the power markets in the coming weeks as large baseload reactors drop offline for routine seasonal maintenance. In total, almost 39,000 MW of supply is already offline nationwide, up about 4,000 MW on the day, according to data from IIR Energy. By fuel, there are more than 14…

A Nuclear Energy Question We'd Like to See Asked in the Presidential Debates

Over at AOL Energy, Margaret Ryan spent some time talking to a variety of policy analysts to devise some questions about energy policy that reporters ought to ask during October's Presidential debates.

As you might expect, this one caught our attention:
What's the future role of nuclear power? Can the nation have a serious climate policy without a serious nuclear one, including finally confronting the issue of nuclear waste? How should the US deal with nuclear waste? Would the candidate endorse continued research and development work in small modular nuclear reactors?Here's hoping that question gets asked. For more information on the debates, click here for more from Politico.

France to Reduce Nuclear Capacity by 33%–in 15 Years–Maybe

After the big, but rather ambiguous, news out of Japan, some reports have tried to join it to a less big but no less ambiguous declaration out of France:
In Paris, President Francois Hollande confirmed his campaign pledge to cut the share of nuclear power in France's energy mix to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent. At the same time he urged the European Union to set tough targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions for 2030 and 2040.
"We have an ambitious strategy," Hollande told an environment conference, calling for a 40 percent cut in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 and a 60 percent reduction by 2040 at the EU level, well beyond the 20 percent target set for 2020.
Greenhouse gases are emitted mainly by burning fossil fuels - nuclear power plants are not big contributors. “Not big contributors?” Not contributors at all. I’m going to ignore the ambitious carbon emission reduction goals for this post because – really – what can say? – Bon chance.

The story does…

NBC Presents A World Without Electricity on Revolution

What would a world without electricity look like? That's a question that Hollywood's J.J. Abrams is attempting to answer this Fall on NBC in a new hour-long Science Fiction drama called Revolution. Set 15 years after the world's electricity mysteriously blinks out, the show premieres tonight at 10:00 p.m. U.S. EDT/9:00 p.m. U.S. CDT on the peacock network.

The full premiere episode is available as a free preview on iTunes, so I was able to catch it over the weekend. While I wouldn't want to reveal any spoilers, I'll just say that a lot of the program looks awfully familiar. If you've ever watched Life After People on cable's History Channel, you'll know exactly what I mean. But while the world the characters inhabit looks a lot like post-apocalyptic worlds we've seen on television and in the movies before, it sure seems like more than a few folks managed to stash a working blow dryer and a washing machine somewhere.

Then again, this is network tel…

Japan to Phase Out Nuclear Energy – Over 30 Years – Maybe

The New York Times has the story:In its first comprehensive energy review since the Fukushima disaster, Japan said on Friday that it would seek to phase out nuclear power by the end of the 2030s — but only after a longer-than-expected transition that would give power companies decades to recoup their investments and brace for a nonnuclear future. By the end of the 2030s? The Times also notes this:In announcing the plan, however, Motohisa Furukawa, the minister of state for national policy, seemed to suggest that the measures were loose guidelines open to revision and discussion. For example, he said the government would leave to future discussion whether five reactors that would be younger than 40 years by the end of the 2030s would be forced to close — leaving open the possibility that some reactors will remain running into the 2040s and beyond. I wondered how Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was going to thread the needle between bowing to the will of the people and the need to keep th…

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 3-7, 2012)

Here's a snippet of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices were mixed last week across the country. ERCOT-Houston and PJM West hubs saw the most action, rising $20 and $12 to average around $55/MWh, respectively. Prices at the Western, Northeastern and Southeastern hubs remained soft, moving less than $5/MWh in either direction. “Power prices across the United States moved mostly higher Tuesday, Sept. 4, with the largest gains recorded in parts of the East and Midwest after markets were closed Monday for Labor Day. … PJM West jumped more than $10 on the day with trades in the mid- to upper $50s, driven in part by a higher demand forecast as the PJM grid operator expects demand in the Western region reaching 69,700 MW on Wednesday. … As the Gulf Coast recovers from Hurricane Isaac's landfall last week, hotter weather and higher demand helped push ERCOT power prices higher Tuesday” (SNL Energy’s Power Daily – 9/5/12). Average nuclear plant availabil…

No Need to Fret About UT-Austin's TRIGA Reactor, No Matter What Drudge Might Point To

A lot of folks around the country are dealing with jangled nerves after the campuses at UT-Austin and North Dakota State were evacuated in the wake of vague threats of terrorist attack. Thankfully, the threats appear to have been a hoax.

When news breaks, the number one guy on the Web who wants to influence where the clicks go is Matt Drudge, chief cook and bottle washer at the Drudge Report. If you pop over to Drudge right now, you'll see all the screaming headlines, with just one in particular catching my eye:

Nuke Reactor Evacuated in Austin...
The first thing to keep in mind is that the reactor in Austin is on campus at UT, and it's a TRIGA Mark II Research Reactor that was constructed by General Atomics. The reactor was designed to be, in the words of Frederic de Hoffman, "safe even in the hands of a young student." The TRIGA Mark II generally operates between just 0.1 to 16 MWTh. By way of comparison, the average commercial nuclear reactor clocks in at about 1,0…

Fusion-Fission Fandango in Texas

It’s like the doublemint twins at the University of Texas at Austin.The researchers — Mike Kotschenreuther, Prashant Valanju and Swadesh Mahajan of the College of Natural Sciences — have patented the concept for a novel fusion-fission hybrid nuclear reactor that would use nuclear fusion and fission together to incinerate nuclear waste. Fusion produces energy by fusing atomic nuclei, and fission produces energy by splitting atomic nuclei.How does it work?The researchers’ patent covers a tokamak device, which uses magnetic fields to produce fusion reactions. The patented tokamak is surrounded by an area that would house a nuclear waste fuel source and waste by-products of the nuclear fuel cycle. The device is driven by a transformational technology called the Super X Divertor.The Super X Divertor is a crucial technology that has the capacity to safely divert the enormous amounts of heat out of the reactor core to keep the reactor producing energy.I guess this means – well, I’m not sure …

A Nuclear Energy Binge to Combat Climate Change

This suggests an academic freak-out:
Geo-engineering techniques such as whitening clouds by adding fine sprays of water vapor, or adding aerosols to the upper atmosphere have been ridiculed in some quarters but welcomed elsewhere. Wadhams proposes the use of thorium-fuelled reactors, being tested in India, which are said to be safer because they do not result in a proliferation of weapons-grade plutonium, experts say. Also, under certain circumstances, the waste from thorium reactors is less dangerous and remains radioactive for hundreds rather than thousands of years. Wadhams is Peter Wadhams, a professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University. What he’s talking about are the desperate measures he envisions as necessary to mitigate climate change.

The thorium-powered nuclear future represents what he calls a nuclear energy “binge” – the resort to thorium seems to me a bit of a hedge, but he’s only proposing not disposing. He’d probably be content enough with uranium if it came dow…

NEI Energy Markets Report (August 27-31, 2012)

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:Electricity peak prices made marginal gains last week across the country. The largest movers were the Western hubs which increased $4-$6 to average $40/MWh in the region. The Eastern hubs barely budged and the Texas hub rose $4 to average $36/MWh. “Power prices across the U.S. moved in mixed directions Tuesday, Aug. 28, finding support from hot weather in California, across the Southwest and Texas but taking on a more bearish bias elsewhere across the country in line with weak spot gas prices. … In addition, generation remains healthy. While several units are slated to shut through September and October, a fairly minimal 22,790 MW is offline nationwide in the meantime, according to IIR Energy. The nuclear generation sector, which could see as many as 30 reactors shut for refueling by the end of the year, represents the largest market share of outages, with 8,337 MW offline. In addition, about 5,568 MW of the total is…

A Daft Car, Pope Benedict XVI and Nuclear Energy Present and Urgent

No comment (it speaks for itself):
Pope Benedict XVI is now a bit greener.
The 85-year-old pontiff was presented with his first electric car Wednesday, a customized white Renault Kangoo for jaunts around the gardens of the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The story mentions other green initiatives taken at the Vatican City-State.
Benedict has been dubbed the "green pope" for his environmental concerns, which have been a hallmark of his papacy. He has written of the need to protect God's creation in his encyclicals, and raised the issue on his foreign trips and in his annual peace messages.
Under his watch, the Vatican has installed photovoltaic cells on its main auditorium and joined a reforestation project to offset its carbon dioxide emissions. The Vatican City-State is 800 or so people strong and sits on 110 acres in the middle of Rome. How much influence could it have?
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I like electric cars because they reduce carbon emissions and because nuclear energy …

Turkey: Nuclear-Natural Gas Quid Pro Quo?

No argument here:One of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Turkey has significant energy needs. The majority Muslim nation’s energy demands will double by 2023, according to one projection. Nuclear Energy perhaps? Turkey has contemplated it for some years, but lacked a partner to help cover the expense of building the facility- running nuclear energy plants is inexpensive, building one is expensive. Now it has a partner – and in an arrangement that seems close to unique:The $20 billion venture will be wholly financed by a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear energy corporation.The Russian firm has agreed to build, own and operate the plant for its entire productive life, with spent fuel sent to Russia for reprocessing. The deal represents an unprecedented level of cooperation between the former adversaries.Various Turkish officials have a lot of questions about this, some of which involve national sovereignty, always a touchy subject. For example, Turkey doesn’…